MANILA—A Quezon City court granted the petition filed by retired Public Attorney Office (PAO) employees questioning the move of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in the previous administration to withhold the release of their benefits.
In a 42-page decision issued by Quezon City RTC Branch 230 Judge Maria Gilda Loja-Pangilinan, the court declared null and void DBM Legal Services Opinion No. 14, dated November 6 2015, issued by its head and respondent Rowena Candice M. Ruiz, for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
“After honorably serving office for a great number of years, public servants, as herein Petitioners PAO retirees, should comfortably enjoy their retirement in the relative security of a regular monthly pension and should not be denied benefit and left without means of sustenance,” the decision read.
“A perceived ambiguity or uncertainty in the application of the law should not serve to deny them such recognition and reward,” it added.
The QC RTC pointed out that based on the PAO Law, retired government lawyers are entitled to the same retirement privileges as those of their counterparts in the National Prosecution Service and that reference shall be made on the retirement benefits of the prosecutors in the National Prosecution Service presently governed by the NAPROSS Law.
“Respondent DBM (which) is hereby Directed to cause the Immediate Release of the retirement benefits of herein petitioners PAO retirees in accordance with DBM and GSIS Joint Circular No. 2013-1 and Budget Circular No. 2013-1, in relation to the PAO Law and NAPROSS (National Prosecution Service) law.”
The petition was filed in June last year by retired PAO lawyers led by Elpidio Bacuyag, who are now senior citizen.
The PAO retirees added that most of them are already ailing and that two of their members had already passed away.
The PAO retirees cried foul with the actions of former DBM Secretary Florencio Abad in blocking their benefits which is mandated by law. PAO is insisting that under their new law, they shall receive the equal benefits which the prosecutors are receiving under the National Prosecution Service.
The petitioners argued that the GSIS Retirement and Life Insurance Premium government share for the qualified public attorneys (Public Attorney II and higher) will remain at 3 percent.
For her part, PAO Chief Atty. Persida Rueda-Acosta lauded the victory of the public defenders in the country following the court’s decision.